Is Jared Kushner the middleman between Russia and the U.S. responsible for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election? The FBI is investigating Kushner’s meetings with Russian officials, as the son-in-law of U.S. President Donald Trump and arguably one of the most influential White House advisers has become a person of significant interest in the Russia probe.
Politico calls Kushner a “shadow secretary of state” in the Trump administration. There have been reports that the FBI has been finding links between the Russians and Trump’s son-in-law, which could become a big headache for the President, who is already facing incredible impeachment pressure.
The shift in the FBI’s focus to Kushner in the Russia probe is bringing investigators to Trump’s inner circle, which could – in theory – lay the groundwork for additional pressure on Trump, whose potential impeachment offenses continue to mount. Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, is said to have held a series of meetings with high-level Russians both before and after his father-in-law won the election in November.
ValueWalk's Raul Panganiban interviews Kirk Du Plessis, Founder and CEO of Option Alpha, and discuss Option Alpha and his general approach to investing. Q1 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more The following is a computer generated transcript and may contain some errors. Interview with Option Alpha's Kirk Du Plessis
The FBI is now investigating those alleged meetings as part of its large-scale probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters.
Could Kushner become the catalyst of Trump’s impeachment?
While Kushner has yet to set the record straight about his meetings with high-level Russian officials, the FBI’s interest in Trump’s inner circle has caused quite a stir in Washington. Kushner is now the only current White House official known to the media to be considered a target of the Russia probe.
The FBI is also investigating both former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s possible ties to Russia. However, Kushner is becoming the central focus of the investigation, which could take a gloomy turn for the Trump presidency if his alleged ties to Russia are confirmed.
Kushner, however, is not being accused of any wrongdoing yet. Trump’s selection of his son-in-law to serve as one of his advisers triggered an uproar in the media, with experts raising questions about nepotism laws in the U.S. A son-in-law is considered to be a “relative,” according to the 1967 federal anti-nepotism law, so Trump’s appointment of Kushner in the White House is also coming under increased scrutiny.
Kushner’s alleged meetings with Russians make him a person of interest
Kushner is not being accused of anything, yet the FBI is said to be focused on investigating several alleged meetings with the Russians during the presidential campaign and after Trump’s election victory. In early December when Trump was President-elect, Kushner reportedly had a low-key meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, in New York City.
After the December meeting, which according to The New Yorker, citing an unnamed White House official, lasted “just for a few minutes,” Kushner allegedly sent a deputy to meet with Kislyak. Flynn, who also finds himself at the center of the Russia probe, was also reportedly present at the meeting, and a little later he reportedly had a phone conversation with the Russian ambassador to discuss Western sanctions imposed on Russia after the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The alleged conversation between Flynn and Kislyak – and the now evident fact that the former national security adviser initially mischaracterized the conversation to Vice President Mike Pence – prompted his firing from the White House. That clearly shows that the December conversations between Kislyak, Flynn and Kushner require closer investigation.
December was pretty eventful for Kushner as he also reportedly met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, the Russian bank that was hit by U.S. sanctions. The details of their alleged conversation remain under wraps. But Kushner may have had exchanges with the Russians not only after Trump’s election victory was announced, but also long before. In the spring of 2016 – when Trump was considered the underdog in the election – Kushner may have met with the Russian ambassador at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. The two were present at an event which saw then-presidential hopeful Trump make a controversial speech in which he promised to seek closer ties with Russia.
Did Kushner trigger Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election?
If Kushner and Kislyak did hold a meeting last spring, then it could explain Russia’s aggressive push to influence the U.S. election. Then-CIA director John Brennan told Congress on Tuesday at a hearing about Russian meddling that he started noticing suspicious activities around that time, according to The Washington Post.
Brennan alleges that in spring 2016, he started noticing that the Russians actively and aggressively started reaching out to people from Trump’s camp. While it’s unclear whether it was Kushner’s alleged meeting with the Russian ambassador that gave the green light to meddle in the U.S. election, Brennan alleges that the Russians started influencing it around that time.
Brennan – speaking from his experience in “many counterintelligence cases in the past” – alleged that when Russians want to spy or get involved in other nations’ affairs, they reach out to individuals from that nation to either “suborn” or blackmail them to “try to act on their behalf, either wittingly or unwittingly.”
“And I was worried by a number of contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons,” Brennan told Congress.
That’s the period of time when Russian officials allegedly started holding meetings with members of Trump’s campaign, according to Brennan, who said he had been keeping an eye on the meetings after noticing strange activities. What puts Kushner in the center of the Russia probe is that he did not disclose his meetings with the Russians on security clearance forms, according to The Washington Post.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also reportedly held meetings with the Russians which he omitted on security clearance forms. Other members of Trump’s presidential campaign, namely, former campaign manager Paul Manafort and adviser Carter Page, had had close ties to Russia even before spring 2016.
What is Kushner hiding?
While Kushner’s role in Russian meddling in the 2016 election, if any, is yet unclear, the FBI is determined to find evidence that the Russians were influencing or trying to influence members of Trump’s presidential campaign to interfere in the election.
It’s now clear, however, that Kushner’s influence in the White House is rather impressive, as he was part of the President’s delegation on his first foreign trip as president earlier this week. While Kushner is a notoriously private person – he rarely speaks in public – he is constantly seen in the Oval Office with his father-in-law.